18 December 2008

Nothing changes

Ross Clark has been...
...trying to square the [British] Government's tough new proposals on welfare reform, which will involve slashing housing benefit and forcing single mothers of one- year-old children out to work, with its announcement last week of a mortgage rescue plan to allow homebuyers to take a two-year holiday on their mortgage repayments if they suffer a loss of income. But I am afraid I am not doing very well. The peculiar case of middle-class benefits, 'The Times', 8 December
Me neither. It is the persistence of these subsidies to the wealthy and middle classes, after decades of accumulated evidence of their wastefulness, that makes one despair. Originally well intentioned, they have largely been capitalised into asset values so that they fail even in the narrow terms of their stated original purpose. Our economies are so complex that policymakers can escape censure by stringing together high-sounding ideals ('home-ownership', 'food security', 'energy independence') with some seemingly apposite policy, which appears to bring us closer to the supposed ideal, but in reality leads off in a completely different direction: one that favours vested interests, wealthy individuals, big corporations - and economic inefficiency.

Under a Social Policy Bond regime, policies would be expressed in terms of what they actually achieve. All the activities they would then stimulate would be entirely subordinated to specified, agreed, transparent outcomes.

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